The NC500 has become an increasingly popular drive over the years, and it’s not hard to see why! With its rolling hills, villages, farms, and old Scottish castles, the NC500 offers one of the most breathtaking road trips in the UK.
This beautiful route is perfect for those who love to wander and take their time soaking in the scenery. But while there are many micro-adventures to explore on this journey, is it possible to do so by caravan? And what should you know before taking your caravan on this trip?
When doing the NC500 in a caravan, you should know a few important things. For starters, most roads are single lane and accommodation must be booked in advance. Additionally, you must start out early and keep a flexible itinerary so you can take advantage of unexpected adventures.
No matter the time of year, there are many unique sights to behold along this route and you should give yourself ample time to explore these wonders. Avoid rushing this once-in-a-lifetime road trip so you don’t miss out on certain spots.
In the rest of this article, we will discuss what makes the NC500 route so special, a few of the best campsites along the way, whether this road is suitable for caravans, and what you need before taking your caravan on this trip.
Driving through this route is a magical experience and taking your caravan is the ideal way to experience all the sights without spending on nightly accommodation. So let’s dive in and learn a little more about this stunning route known as the NC500!
What Is the NC500?
Now that you know a little about what to expect before driving through this beautiful expanse, let’s talk about the NC500 and what makes it such a unique location for travel.
The NC500 (North Coast 500) is a 516 mile (830.42-km) route that wraps around the northern part of Scotland. The route starts and ends in Inverness, one of Scotland’s major cities. The NC500 is incredibly popular due to its rich history, breathtaking sights, and lush landscapes.
This route has gained immense popularity over the years, but before it became a tourist hot spot, these roads were used by farmers and local villagers. Unfortunately, this means that a few of the roads on the NC500 are narrow and poorly maintained, unlike roads in larger cities. So it’s best to proceed with extreme caution.
While driving through, you will sweep past old castles, rolling green hills, the vibrant blue ocean, and beautifully-carved sea stacks. The North Coast 500 is rich with history and driving through can feel like taking a step back in time.
While most people take up this journey in their cars, staying at inns along the way, some people claim that it’s possible to drive through the NC500 by caravan.
Can Caravans Do the NC500?
If you plan to take a caravan on this scenic drive, there are a few rules to follow as this route isn’t too caravan-friendly. In fact, there are quite a few side roads you’ll be unable to drive through considering how narrow they are.
Caravans can do the NC500 so long as they are small and stay on the main roadway. If you’re driving a caravan on this route, you must be confident in your ability to maneuver through narrow one-lane roads and even reverse if required.
The North Coast 500 official website states that if your motorhome is more than a standard VW T5 conversion, which is about 16-18ft (4.8-5.5m) in length, you should consider alternative caravan routes.
The alternative routes are essential as many of the main roads can get pretty narrow and are often single-track. So if you come upon another vehicle, it can be difficult to move your caravan easily without stopping traffic or causing a minor accident.
The North Coast 500 website also states that if you cannot properly reverse in your caravan for several yards on narrow single-lane roads, you should avoid Bealach Na Ba (take the A832) and B869 Drumbeg Road (take the A894).
Here are a few tips that local drivers have for those who wish to take their caravans on these roads:
- You must be able to reverse your caravan confidently. You will often encounter narrow, single tracks on these roads, and will have to regularly reverse. If this is something you’re not comfortable with, don’t attempt this road trip in a caravan.
- You should always pull over for faster traffic. These roads are small and can quickly grow congested if someone in a large motorhome blocks traffic. So prepare to be polite and pull over when faster vehicles approach.
- Never travel in a convoy. This style of travel leads to congestion on the narrow roads, where reversing might be necessary, and makes it hard to pull over for others to pass.
If you follow these tips and your caravan is the right size, you should be good to do the NC500 in your motorhome.
9 Things To Know Before Doing the NC500 With a Caravan
If you’ve got the right caravan and are willing to go through the trouble of driving through this route, great! You’re just a step away from actually doing it!
But before you set out, there are a few things you have to know when attempting the NC500 by caravan.
- Plan your trip ahead of time. Planning your journey in advance will ensure that you hit all the right spots and make the most of your trip. Just be sure to schedule some time for random adventures.
- Book accommodations in advance. Rooms and campsites are rented out quickly along the NC500 and you need to book more than 3 months in advance to ensure you secure a spot.
- Don’t rush your NC500 Road Trip. It can be tempting to try and complete this trip quickly in just five days. But to make the most of this stunning route, it’s best to give yourself seven to ten days so you can take it all in at a leisurely pace.
- Start your drive early every morning. By getting an early start on your drive each day, you can beat the inevitable traffic congestion and reach your desired destination peacefully.
- Pack plenty of clothing for different weather. The weather in the highlands tends to change quickly, so you should always be prepared with clothing for any type of weather.
- Don’t be afraid to follow the brown signs. These signs often lead to fun side adventures for travelers, one of them being the Smoo cave on the far north coast.
- Get to your nightly accommodation before dark. Driving on these unfamiliar roads at night isn’t safe, and it’s best to get to your campsite as early as possible and avoid driving in the dark.
- Be prepared for bugs. During the summer and spring months, critters called midges breed in plenty and are a nuisance when you’re spending the majority of your time outdoors. You can purchase a face net or some spray to combat these tiny pests.
- Take time to enjoy your surroundings. This part of Scotland is exotic and beautiful, and it’s best to spend plenty of time outdoors, whether it’s hiking, relaxing, or other activities.
If you follow these nine tips, your caravan trip should be pretty close to perfect.
It’s worth mentioning again that planning and preparation is the most important part of an NC500 road trip. There’s so much to see and do along this route, and without a plan, you will find yourself running out of time to take it all in.
Campsites Located on the NC500
Now that you’re aware of how to prepare for a caravan trip through the NC 500, let’s take a look at some of the best campsites along this route. By looking at a list you can select which campsites work best for you and include them in your plans.
Inver Caravan Park in Dunbeath
First off, we have Inver Caravan Park, a simple and quiet campsite/park for the weary traveler. This caravan-friendly park is ranked fourth among Scotland’s top touring parks.
What you should know about Inver Caravan Park:
- Reservations must be booked online in advance.
- Free pitches are offered to walkers and cyclists.
- The park is animal friendly.
- They offer fast fiber-optic wifi to guests.
- You can dump both greywater and toilet waste for free so long as you’re staying the night.
This campsite is run by friendly staff and has raving reviews from satisfied customers. It’s perfect for those seeking a quiet place to stay during their adventure.
John O’Groats Caravan and Camping Site
Next up, we have the John O’Groats Caravan and Camping site. This camping space is located in the small village of John O’groats, which houses a petrol station, grocery store, a small inn, a bar, and a post office.
What you should know about John O’Groats Caravan Camping Site:
- The campsites here offer a seafront view.
- A small motorhome/car and caravan under 8m should cost a group of two about £24.
- Hot showers and working toilets are available.
- They offer waste disposal services for your caravan.
- Wifi is available on site.
This cute camping site is an excellent stop for those who would like to spend some time taking in the peace and serenity offered by the ocean.
Sango Sands Oasis Camping and Caravan Site
This beautiful campsite located north of Scotland also comes with a stunning view of the beach and is an excellent stop for those looking to get an oceanic view.
Here’s what you should know about Sango Sands Oasis Camping and Caravan site:
- Across from your campsite is a bar and restaurant with a view of the ocean.
- Depending on the time of year, you can expect to see whales, seals, and sometimes blue-nosed dolphins.
- There are limited facilities during their off-season, so you should ideally book between the months of April and October.
- They offer laundry facilities on the premises.
- They offer waste disposal services for caravans.
- They have warm showers and working toilets.
This pristine campsite is a must during your NC500 travels. Aside from the beautiful view of the ocean and the marine life you may witness, they also offer amenities that will help you truly take a break and recharge before setting off again.
Clachtoll Beach Campsite
Last but not least,we have the Clachtoll Beach Campsite. As the title states, this camp site is located on the beach in Clachtoll.
What you should know about Clachtoll Beach Campsite:
- This site is relatively small.
- It’s run by a family.
- They are pet friendly.
- They accept touring caravans, campervans, motorhomes, tents, and backpackers.
- The space offers sea-view campsites.
- All bookings must be made online and in advance.
This cute site is located just five miles from the nearby village of Lochinver, which houses a variety of shops, cafes, and restaurants.
If you’re looking for a complete guide to plan your upcoming NC500 road trip, consider reading The Rough Guide to the North Coast 500 (available on Amazon.com). This book offers several tips for planning your trip and is definitely worth the read.